"Three times! It's been three times that I have had to leave a climbing area because of a fire!" Our camping neighbour raved as we rushed about to pack up our camp sites and book it out of the canyon. Minutes earlier, the fire warden had driven through Rifle Canyon, telling all climbers to evacuate the canyon immediately due to a fire. We had noticed the smoke and ash filtering through the canyon about a half hour before and weren't surprised by the evacuation.
Bummer. That was the essence of my feelings of having to leave Rifle. Absolute bummer. After spending about three weeks in the canyon, I felt like I was only just starting to find the Rifle groove. I had sent Apocalypse '05 in four tries just a few days before, and had literally that day had decided to project Present Tense, a wicked and beautiful 13d on the Project Wall. I wasn't ready to leave, but really, we had no choice. After driving a few miles away, we pulled over to join Rifle climbers in watching the raging wildfire that had started that morning. "Well...we're not getting back in the canyon any time soon" was the general consensus of comments.
Tom and I hummed and hawed about whether to stay or head to Ten Sleep. We had planned to head to Wyoming in less than a week anyways, so after a day in Independence Pass, with no signs of the fire calming or the canyon reopening, we pulled the plug. I'll be back for you Rifle!
We pulled in to Ten Sleep with our good friend Jen Olson the next day. The first thing I noticed were the wildflowers. Thousands of them, yellow and purple. Incredible! The canyon was beautiful, our camping spot was pristine, and the rock the lined the canyon looked pretty darn cool.
Sitting above the teensy town of Ten Sleep, Ten Sleep Canyon has been increasingly popular over the last decade. With hundreds of rock climbs ranging from 5.easy to 5.14+, it's an area for all the enjoy and visit. After coming from Rifle, where if you don't climb hard 5.12, you won't have fun, Ten Sleep offers routes for all abilities.
The thin, vertical nature of the rock made me quite wary to hop on hard routes right away. With my history of repeated finger injuries as a youth, the multiple pockets made me wince. However, after a few days of easing into the climbing, I was able to pull of ascents of Gorilla Tactics (5.13b) and Hellion (5.13c) quite quickly to my surprise and delight.
After two weeks in the area, Tom and I were happy to leave. We had completed the routes we were psyched on, and both lacked the finger strength to get on the harder/thinner test pieces in the area. With Tom's U.S. visa expiration date looming (Brits only get 3 months), we high tailed it back to Canada for some R&R in my hometown of Calgary.
Thanks for the wonderful visit Ten Sleep. Your free camping, wild flowers, fun rock climbs, and overall beauty were thoroughly enjoyed!
Next up, back to Wyoming for an altogether different type of climbing. Keep tuned!